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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Vegan Gift Ideas!


~Chocolates~Toilettries~Accessories~Homemade gifts~Charitable gifts~Hampers~Gift Vouchers~Drinks~Magazines~Books~Memberships~Animal Adoptions


A friend asked me recently "what's a good gift for a vegan?" Obviously vegans are as varied as anyone, and all like different things!
Nevertheless I thought I'd write a post to share a few ideas (both shop-bought and home-made!!)

From the shops/internet:

  • Chocolates!
Some fancy schmancy chocolates:

-Booja Booja truffles (available from Holland and Barrett, Waitrose and independant health food shops) http://www.waitrose.com/shop/HeaderSearchCmd?searchTerm=booja+booja&defaultSearch=GR&search=
-Montezuma vegan truffles (not an exclusively vegan brand so beware if searching the rest of their website)www.montezumas.co.uk/chocolate-gifts/vegan-organic-truffle.html
-Hotel Chocolat (not exclusively vegan brand. This links to the vegan stuff:http://www.hotelchocolat.com/uk/shop/collections/dietary/vegan-chocolate)
  
More chocolates...

From Supermarkets: Some dark chocolates by  brands such as Lindt and Green & Blacks are suitable.  Just watch out for lactose, whey powder or butterfat on the ingredients list.

Raw chocolate, for healthy foodies who like a treat..

Raw Nibbles:www.rawnibbles.co.uk/


  • A nice cook book

  • Some recommended books:

    -Isa Does it  easy, tasty reliable recipes. (US measurements)
    -Vegan Eats World- fancy recipes for world cuisine. (US measurements)
    -Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen tasty Italian recipes (US measurements)
    -Ms Cupcakes, Naughtiest cakes in town decadent easy to make cakes and bakes (UK measurements)
    -Vegan Cupcakes Take over The World, Vegan Pie in the Sky, Vegan Cookies Invade your Cookie Jar more great recipes for sweet, tooth destroying treats :) (US measurements)

    • A restaurant voucher
    Find out where your friend likes to eat, and buy a voucher for their favourite restaurant. A few chain restaurants that cater for vegans reasonably well are Pizza Express, Wagamama, Las Iguanas.
    • A food hamper/gift box
    Buy a nice box or basket and fill it with foods and drinks your friend might like!  Some hamper ideas:

    Hot Chocolate Hamper: Could include a mug, a spoon, "choc shot" liquid chocolate, vegan squirty cream, and mini vegan marshmallows!
    Sweeties Hamper: Could include: Vegan Fudge, Goody Good Stuff Sweets, Sweet Freedom Marshmallows, other sweets such as ones sold here: www.needsweets.co.uk/
    Coffee and cake hamper: Could include: Some nice fairtrade coffee, soya cream, cake such as Mrs Crimbles apple cake, or these loaf cakes from the co-op www.veganoo.net/2013/10/review-riverbank-bakery-fruit-cake.html?m=1)
    Tea and biccie Hamper: Could include-a selection of nice teas, and biscuits such as Lotus biscuits, fruit shortcake biscuits, or Lazy Days Millionaires Shortbread 
    A fruit basket: ...loads of lovely fresh fruits!  
    Snack attack hamper: Many crisps, pretzels, and tortilla chips and dips, are vegan.  Could also include nuts, popcorn, hummus chips
    Healthy/wheat-free snack bar hamper: Nakd bars, dried fruits and nuts, kale chips
    Favourite Cuisine Cooking Hamper-
    Vegan ingredients to make your friend's favourite kind of cuisine, ie for Italian.. posh dried pasta, nice olive oil, jars of sundried tomatoes/roasted peppers, sea salt and pepper grinder.

    • Wine
    Some vegan wines:
    Co-op and M&S label their vegan wines.
    More can be found listed at Barnivore.com

    • Beer.
    Some vegan beers: Heineken, Stella Artois and Budweiser.
    More at Barnivore.com
    • Toiletries
    Just because a brand says it doesn't test on animals it doesn't mean it's vegan friendly (it may contain animal products/by-products)
    However the following items are all safe...


    Make up:
    Any items from Superdrug's "B" range. www.superdrug.com/brandshop/B/makeup#.VHUbWPl_uz4
    Any items from Beauty without Crueltywww.bwcshop.com/
    Any items from Vegan Faces: www.veganfaces.co.uk/
    Barry M-their website labels vegan products with a white "v" inside inside a green heart www.barrym.com
    Any items from Arbonne: (Note: these are more "high end" products) www.arbonneinternational.co.uk/
    Make up brushes-many cosmetics brushes are made using animal hair-Eco tools aren't! www.naturisimo.com/index.cfm?nme=EcoTools
    Bath/shower products
    Items labelled vegan from Lush, Superdrug, Faith in Nature, Marks and spencer (check the product info on their website listings..some of these are listed as vegan)

    Hair care products: "Tara Smith" range, available from Marks and Spencer http://tarasmith.com/, certain items from Paul Mitchell (available from hairdressers)www.paul-mitchell.co.uk/no-animal-testing, certain products from Lush.
    Perfume-certain perfumes from Lush, Pacifica , these from M&S.

    For men:
    Hair care products: Items labelled vegan from Lush, Superdrug.
    Male Grooming-All Bulldog products http://meetthebulldog.com
    available from Waitrose, Sainsburys etc 

    • Clothing/accessories
    If your friend is vegan for ethical reasons (not just dietary reasons) they will more than likely avoid anything made of: leather, wool/animal hair (inc. cashmere, angora, alpaca and mohair), silk and feathers and down. (and obviously no fur!!)
    So, if giving knitted items make sure they use synthetic yarn, if giving purses/wallets/belts/jewellery make sure they are all synthetic, with no leather trim, or feather decorations. 



    If your friend likes to advertise their veganism loud and proud, maybe they'd like a vegan themed bag or T-shirt, from one of these sites:
    -Blood Tight Apparel www.bloodtightapparel.com

    For vegan themed jewellery visit:
    (or search Etsy)


    Some homemade gift ideas...
    • A home cooked meal
    • A hamper of homemade vegan cookies/candied nuts/truffles, fudge etc (1000's of recipes can be found here:www.vegweb.com)
    • A muffin basket
    • Handmade knitted gloves/hat/scarf, (using synthetic yarn)

    Thinking outside the (gift) box... 


    Charitable gifts

    Most vegans have an affinity to animals, so may appreciate a donation to their favourite charity in lieu of a gift, or an animal adopted in their name.

    A note on charities to avoid:
    Most vegans tend to avoid charity schemes that: 
    -Send live animals sent to third world counties (as it can further impoverish the family looking after the animal, as well as harming the animal.  Some info on it can be found here:
    -Fund animal testing (you can check which charities do test on animals, at this website:

    Some vegan friendly charities/groups that you could donate to:

    -Viva! (Farmed animal campaign group) www.viva.org.uk/
    -The Hunt Saboteurs Association (funds groups who sabotage hunting) www.huntsabs.org.uk
    -Dr Hadwen Trust (non animal-based medical research) www.drhadwentrust.org/
    -VegFam (helps third world famine without using animals)www.vegfamcharity.org.uk/donate.html
    -Hillide Animal Sanctuary (run a "gift of hay" scheme).www.hillside.org.uk/acatalog/copy_of_Gifts_in_Lieu.htm
    -Five Valleys Hedgehog and Bird Rescue (small rescue careing for sick and injured wildlife)www.facebook.com/FiveValleysHedgehogBirdRescue/info?tab=page_info
    -Tower Hill Stables (care for abused dogs/cats/farm animals) www.towerhillstables.com/towerhill-helpingus.htm

    Animal adoption schemes 

    A couple of sanctuaries with animal adoption schemes are:

    Memberships and Magazine Subscription

    Animal Aid membership  includes quarterly copies of their magazine "Outrage". Membership can be purchased here: www.animalaid.org.uk/h/n/ABOUT/membership/

    "Vegan Life" -The UK's first and only mainstream vegan magazine.  Subscriptions are available to buy here: veganlifemag.co.uk/product-category/subscription-packages/

    ___________________________________

    I hope this guide is helpful! 
     If you have any other nice ideas for vegan-related gifts, or if you've received a particularly thoughtful gift, please comment below, or on our Facebook page! :)


    ps... I've mentioned lots of different brands and products in this post.  None of the companies/authors/websites or shops mentioned are paying me to advertise their products.  
    (I'm just trying to be helpful by sharing links) :)

    Monday, 20 October 2014

    World Vegan Day Competition!


    To celebrate World Vegan Day on November 1st I'm running a little comp!

    First prize is the fabulous cookbook "Isa Does it" (probably my favourite cookbook to date!)
    (available to buy on Amazon, here)


    Second prize is a box of 12 mixed chocolate cupcakes! (collection only!)
    (available to order here)



    Plus there will be 3 runners up prizes of "The L Plate Vegan" pocket Guide, by Viva!
    (available to buy here)


    World Vegan Day marks the start of vegan month.   If you're not vegan but would like to give it a go, then now is the perfect time to register for Animal Aid's "Great Vegan Challenge".

                                    

    You can also read some of my tips for going veggie/vegan, here!


    For your chance to win, enter using the Rafflecopter app below! Good luck!


    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Thursday, 2 October 2014

    No cake for me today...

    I'm not eating cakes today.
    Or any food at all.

    This isn't really a cake related blog post, and it does cover vegan/animal rights issues. I know some people who follow just for the cake may be uncomfortable with that, but I hope vegan or not you will stay for a read!

    Today (2nd Oct) is World Day for Farmed Animals, and this year thousands of people across the world have pledged to fast for the day, in remembrance of the billions of farmed animals killed for food each year. 

    I wasn't initially sure whether taking part would be a worthwhile cause or not. But I am, and my main reason is as a mark of respect to all of the unseen animals that suffer for the meat trade.
    As an animal lover it literally breaks my heart to think of the huge scale of animal suffering endured by farm animals.

    Over 56 billion animals are killed by the farming industry each year.
    I can totally get why numbers like this would make people think that them alone giving up meat could not have any impact on anything at all.

    But I am quite fond of the quote:
    "Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

    The fact is that more and more people each day are realising they can live healthy happy lives without any animal products at all. (and I hope that my cakes are a testament that veganism definitely doesn't mean "going without!").
    It is such a momentous wish to hope that animal farming could ever end, but I hope that days like today will help make people stop for a moment and consider whether the animal farming industry is still one they wish to support.

    Some useful resources for anyone wishing to trial a vegetarian or vegan diet can be found at these websites:




    http://www.peta.org/living/food/free-vegan-starter-kit/

    and of course  I myself am always happy to try and help, so if you have any questions,  feel free to ask away!





    Wednesday, 1 October 2014

    VegFest UK, 2014!

    On Sunday 28th September I had the pleasure of visiting VegFest UK (at London Olympia) for the first time, with my friend Jill!

    It was a very exciting day!

    Things on my list to get were: Cream cakes from Big Fat Vegan Bakery, (this was a big sell for me!), a Sea Shepherd hoody, and a vego bar!

    I managed to get a Vego bar (or 4...) very quickly, followed by a Sea Shepherd hoody soon after (from my Facebook friend Jenny Dunn who was helping man the Sea Shepherd stall).

    I was really impressed with all the street food vendors at the festival, especially the eye catching Tuk Tuk from thai stall "Bang Wok" and the cute yellow van from "Ruperts Street" (who we bought tofu masala curry from).
    Other cool stuff on offer was....lots of chocolate stalls, loads of vegan cupcakes and cakes, raw food stalls, lots of coconut products and fresh coconut water, and a fair bit of Caribbean food.

    We eventually found The Big Fat Vegan Bakery stall upstairs and it definitely didn't disappoint!  The choice was a bit overwhelming, and I went a bit overboard and ate THREE of their huge cream cakes over the course of the day!

    Other purchases I made were 36 nakd  wholefood bars! (love them so much!), a yummy chewy cookie from my friend Kezia at Kizzy's cookies, and a marshmallow box mix and "Round Up" vegan wagon wheel from Vegan Tuck Shop.
    I also very nearly bought a soya milk maker, and vegetable spirailiser! (maybe next year!)

    Overall I thought VegFest was a great event. It was amazing to see so many animal friendly stalls and people all under one roof, and I can't wait to go back next year!!




    Wednesday, 20 August 2014

    Coffee and Walnut Cheese-less cake....my entry into Peta's Great VeganBake-off!



    *I was thrilled to be a finalist in Peta UK's Great Vegan Bake Off competition, with this recipe, and finished in third place! http://blog.peta.org.uk/2014/09/the-great-vegan-bake-off-2014-the-winner/ *





    Cheesecake.

    It's always been my favourite dessert, ever since my non-vegan days, scoffing half a Sara Lee!

    When I became vegan, cheesecake was one of the first recipes I sought out. The first recipe I followed was from "The Cake Scoffer", and used tofu and a whole tub of ice cream!

    These days I like to flick between raw "cheesecakes" made with whole foods such as cashew nuts and  coconut oil, and naughtier cheesecakes made with Tofutti cream cheese.
    The recipe I'm sharing falls into the latter category.

    Behold...Coffee and walnut cheese-less cake!  

    This is my entry into Peta's "Great Vegan Bake-off" competition. 

    A "buttery" biscuit base, topped with a sophisticated creamy cappuccino cream cheese topping (which is lightened up slightly by subbing some cream cheese for silken tofu).

    I have to stop for a moment to credit my dad for the flavour combination of this cheesecake, as it was his request!


    Ingredients notes:

    -The "cream cheese" I use is Tofutti Creamy Smooth, which can be bought from most health food shops, or online from Goodness Direct.
    -The egg replacer powder I use is Ener-g; others may work, as may cornflour (cornstarch), but I haven't tried!
    -For this recipe you need vacuum packed silken tofu (it’s sold near the canned beans in most supermarkets, and is made by a company called “mori-nu”).
    -The walnuts are optional, as is the whipped cream (but I think it makes it extra special!)
    -I used a carton of Soyatoo whipping cream, (available here) but you could also make your own whipped coconut cream (instructions follow).

    Recipe

    Makes one 9" cake.  You can half the recipe to make a 6" or 7" cake.

    You will need:
    • Food processor
    • 9" spring form pan
    Ingredients:

    For the base
    • 400g vegan digestive biscuits
    • 200g vegan margarine
    For the cream cheese topping
    • 2 packs Tofutti creamy smooth
    • 1 carton Mori-nu silken tofu (firm)
    • 1 tablespoon plus 1 and half teaspoons Ener-g egg replacer powder
    • 6 tablespoons water
    • 3-4 tablespoons espresso powder 
    • 225g sugar
    • Another 1 tablespoon plus 1 and half teaspoons egg replacer powder
    • Another 6 tablespoons water
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    Optional extras:
    • 100g walnut halves
    • Carton soyatoo whipped cream (refrigerated) or
    • Coconut whipped cream, made using 1 can coconut milk, refrigerated, or 1 carton coconut cream refrigerated plus 2-3 tablespoons icing sugar
    Method:

    1. Preheat oven to 175 C. Place a dish of boiling water on the bottom of the oven (the extra humidity helps stop cracks forming on the cheesecake.)

    2. Line a 9" spring firm pan with baking paper (and ideally wrap the tin in brown paper, too).

    3. To make the base... smash the digestive biscuits into crumbs with a rolling pin (or use a food processor). 
    Melt margarine in a saucepan or in a bowl in the microwave. Add biscuit crumbs and stir well.
    Tip the mixture into the base of the cake pan, and press in using either the bottom of a glass or the end of a rolling pin. Refrigerate until needed. 

    4. To make the topping.
    In a small bowl whisk the first batch of egg replacer powder with 6 tablespoons of water. (Preferably using a handheld electric mixer).  Add 3-4 tablespoons espresso powder, (depending on how strong you'd like the coffee flavour). Beat until the mixture is frothy.

    3. Drain the tofu and add to a food processor along with the cream cheese, sugar and egg replacer mixture.
    Blend until the mixture is smooth, stopping the blender now and then to scrape down the sides with a spatula (to make sure all the cream cheese gets blended in).

    4. Whisk second lot of egg replacer with water as before and add to food processor along with the vanilla extract. Blend again until smooth and creamy.

    5. Pour mixture over the biscuit base, and smooth it out with a spatula.  Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the cheesecake looks “almost set”, but the middle is still a little wobbly!
    Turn the oven off, and leave the cake in the oven for an extra 10 minutes. 

    6. Remove tin from oven, and place on a cooling rack.  Once the tin is cool (may take an hour or so!) place in refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight.


    For the creamy soyatoo topping:

    -Whip the Soyatoo cream at full speed for 2 mins, then refrigerate for at least an hour before piping onto your cake.

    For coconut whipped cream:
    Remove can of coconut milk from the refrigerator. The creamy part of the milk will have separated and turned solid in the can. Carefully scoop this out of the can and into a bowl. (or use entire contents of a carton of coconut cream).
    Add icing sugar and beat with a hand blender for 2 or 3 minutes until thick and creamy.
    Refrigerate for at least an hour, before piping onto your cake.

    7.  Once cheesecake has been refrigerated for at least 4 hours, remove from tin, and pipe on the whipped cream (if using).  Add optional walnut halves.

    8. Take lots of photos of your masterpiece!  
    (if you're a fellow Instagrammer, tag me @psitsvegan!)


    Enjoy!



    Friday, 15 August 2014

    Unofficial review of Vegan Life Magazine! Plus WIN a year's subscription!

    Today I had the pleasure of making celebratory treats (of cupcakes and cheescake!) for the team at Vegan Life Magazine, as they celebrated the printing of Issue 1 of their magazine.

                                       
                                      
                                        


    Vegan Life is the first fully vegan magazine to be sold in mainstream shops in the UK.
    (also, it's head quarters are based in the same town as me, which means the Vegan Life team are fast becoming very good customers!)

    Publishing Director Emily dropped off a few copies of Issue 1 to me today, and my first impressions were what a nicely presented magazine it is.

    I'm a sucker for nice paper feel, and Vegan Life is thankfully not just "another glossy mag", rather it is printed on good quality paper with a classy matte finish.

    Flicking through, the articles that caught my eye most were "Vegan News" (which gave snippets of vegan news stories, as you might expect!), the recipe pages, and a few of the special features.

    In particular the heartwarming and emotional story of "The M62 Hen Rescue", which tells of how partners Louise Fields and Emma Billington rescued thousands of chickens destined for slaughter from a motorway crash which happened right outside their home (and how they have since set up the campaign page "Justice for Hens").

    Also, as ever I was pleased to see my friend (and vegan super athlete!) Fiona Oakes getting recognition, and  recounting her amazing running and animal rescue achievements.

    It was interesting to also read a piece about Donald Watson, who founded the vegan movement in 1944.

    Other features in the mag included new vegan products, a debate on whether it's ever ok to eat eggs from your own hens, and also (I'm proud to say)...me! In an article about my cake business, and how I helped organise Colchester's First Vegan Fair.  


                    


    I also provided a recipe for one of my favourite desserts...apple crumble cheesecake! 

    Overall I would say that Vegan Life Magazine will be really useful to people wanting to learn more about vegan issues and the vegan lifestyle, especially those just starting out. 
    It will be great to see it have a physical presence on supermarket shelves, and will hopefully draw in a new crowd of curious would-be vegans.


    I'm running a competition to give away a year's subscription (6 issues) of Vegan Life, worth £14.50 (special offer price). This prize also includes the free gift of £14.65 worth of Veganicity vitamin products.

    You can enter using my Rafflecopter  app below .. (Good luck!)



    a Rafflecopter giveaway
    If you are unlucky in the competition you can subscribe at the Vegan Life Website here:http://veganlifemag.co.uk/shop/subscription-packages/vegan-life-magazine-1-year-subscription/


    Thursday, 3 April 2014

    Wheat free test kitchen!



    I have always been a huge lover of wheat, especially in deliciously soft bread and light and fluffy cakes!

    But every so often I think I am eating too much, so decide to give it up/cut down for a spell.

    A handy side effect of this is it forces me to experiment more with wheat free baking! (something I've always neglected.)

    I decided to trial 3 gluten free recipes (two cookies, and a chocolate cupcake).

    For the first batch of cookies I followed a Chocolate Covered Katie recipe here, using oat flour (which I made by blending oats).

    The result was a soft oaty cookie, which was quite tasty!  One of my taste testers (Lee) said it was kind of like a hobnob!


    For the second batch of cookies I wanted to try something a little different...chickpea cookies!
    This is something I've seen on Pinterest a few times, and I've always been curious to try. I was reminded of them by a photo of chocolate chip chickpea muffins on Instagram (on Chocolate Covered Katie's account).
    I couldn't find a cookie recipe I liked, so I adapted CCK's recipe to make cookies (by omitting the baking powder and cooking on a cookie tray!) 

    I was really pleased with these cookies. They use apple sauce in place of some of the oil, and they feel like a protein packed snack when you eat them.
    I gave them to a couple of people to try, and neither could guess they contained chickpeas!
    They were quite soft, almost "cakey" cookies, but that didn't spoil my enjoyment of them :)
    (I even dipped one in my yogurt!)




    Next was the cupcakes.
    I've tried making gluten free cupcakes before, and have never been overly impressed with the results.

    This time I thought I'd try a recipe from Ms Cupcake:The Naughtiest Vegan Cakes in Town.
    The recipe was actually for a cake rather than cupcakes, but I halved it and made into 12 cupcakes.
    (my reason for not just trying one of her gluten free cupcake recipes was I didn't have any xantham gum which was called for in most of those recipes.)

    I was happier with these cupcakes than I have been with my other attempts, but my taste testers had mixed views.  Two of my friends who love chocolate cake thought they were great, but my friend Carol (the harshest cake critic!) thought they were very dry.

    They're definitely drier than my usual cupcakes.  More springy" and less "crumby". I think baking without eggs AND without dairy AND without wheat is always going to be a challenge.
    I wonder if you have to be a true gluten free vegan to fully appreciate these kind of cakes!



    I'm sharing the recipe for the chickpea cookies (with kind permission from Chocolate Covered Katie). If you make them be sure to see if people can guess the secret ingredient!

    Ingredients:
    1/2 cup oats 
    400g can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed 
    2 tbsp apple sauce
    1 and 1/2 tbsp of vegetable oil 
    1/2 tablespoon vanilla 
    1/4 tsp baking soda
    1/4 tsp salt
    3/4 cup brown sugar
    1/3-1/2 cup chocolate chips 
    1/4 cup walnuts pieces (optional)

    Preheat oven to 350f (175C), and line a baking tray with baking paper.

    Whizz the oats in a blender until they're pretty much powder.

    Add the chickpeas and blend again until they've purée'ed down.

    Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth. 

    Dollop the cookie dough evenly onto the baking tray.
    Distribute the chocolate chips evenly amongst the cookies by pressing them into the tops. Add walnut pieces if using.

    Bake until the cookies no longer look wet, about 10-13 mins. (check regularly for doneness!)
    Once out of the oven leave on the cookie tray for 5 minutes (to help them firm up), then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.